The composer made this arrangement of the Third String Quartet for string orchestra in March 2003. The first performance was given by the Eos Orchestra, New York, conducted by Ken Selden in the Concert Hall, Ethical Cultural Society, New York City on 24 April 2003.
Quoting composer: In the summer of 1989 I composed a choral work, Out of the Ruins
, for Agnieszka Piotrowska’s BBC2 documentary which dealt with the physical and emotional responses of some of the inhabitants of Leninakhan to the earthquake which devastated Armenia the previous December. When he heard the recording of the work that I made with the Holy Echmiadzin Chorus under the fervent conducting of Khoren Meykhanejian, Alex Balanescu suggested turning Out of the Ruins into a string quartet. There seemed no reason or opportunity to do this until I felt the need to add to the intensity of my experiences in Armenia the no less profound experience of witnessing the images of the Romanian revolution on television during the latter part of December 1989.
Just as the structure of my Third String Quartet (1990) may connect it with the First, so they also share a debt to Thurston Dart (my professor at King’s College, London, between 1961 and 1965). It was Dart who had the inspiration to send me to Romania in 1965, ostensibly to study folk music. The volumes of transcriptions that I brought back with me had remained unopened until, with this proposed ‘celebratory’ string quartet (though at the time it was difficult to know quite what to celebrate in postrevolutionary Romania), an occasion arose where I could use this material in what seemed to me was a non-exploitative manner.
The compositional procedure was as follows: to take Out of the Ruins as a template on which the Romanian vocal or instrumental music would be superimposed, quite often stretched into new intervallic shapes through the demands of the completely pre-formed harmonic structure.